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A Model for Our Nation
I’d always wondered how people became full after only one piece of cheesecake, or two scoops of ice cream; since following such conventions always left me hungry. So now I said to hell with convention. I made the rounds at Costco: stocked my freezer with pizzas, turkeys, hams, boxes of the meter-sized cheesecakes you see at weddings, and thirty-gallon cylinders of rocky road. I ate as I had always wanted: until I reached the bottom of the thirty-gallon container, or smacked up the final graham cracker crumbs of the cheesecake, or devoured countless sandwiches made from turkeys or hams. I could no longer imagine opening one of those jumbo boxes of coco puffs without finishing two boxes. And no more of those liter Mountain Dews, as I only quenched my thirst with two liters, and never felt satisfied until I downed three. |
Yet for all that I never felt full, even after pounding five beers to set the mood. To compensate, after the pizza I found room for two pitchers of milk shakes, thickened with a bottle of chocolate sauce. Then I enriched the shakes with cream, cake mix, cups of olive oil.
But I didn’t get that satisfied feeling. And I didn’t gain much weight. You read about teens blaming an inability to gain weight on a fast metabolism. That wasn’t it. It was my knee, my knee bouncing up and down. A bounce or two doesn’t add up to much, but when your knee bounces up and down all day you become a calorie whirlpool.
So at five-feet eleven inches, I went from model-esque to healthy, one hundred sixty-five pounds to one eighty-five, from a thirty-inch waist to thirty-four-inches. The waistband on my jeans became taut. There were stress marks around the two top pants buttons. My tank top inched up, showing the curve of a hairy, peekaboo belly. The denim became a second-skin to my derriere. After the pitchers of Keystone and two large pepperoni pizzas at Sal’s, I’d jump in my Focus, spread my thighs and pop open the top buttons of my jeans, releasing my belly.
Though filling out, there still were no end to the men wanting to flirt. In fact, as we men who hang out at Alsatian biergartens have full knowledge, more men in their heart of hearts want healthy men, with full cheeks, the beginnings of a gut and a padded rear, than men with sunken cheeks and rippled abs. As I became healthier they found me more approachable, perhaps from contempt. They assumed a familiarity based on padded-rear condescension, and didn’t restrain their hands. I learned to wait rather than step in crowded elevators; and to avoid those Gold’s Gym Black Friday membership sales.
But their passes didn’t excite me. Scorned, they cursed me with epithets like “watermelon buttocks” and “airplane pillow gut,” which said more about what they wanted than what I was. I still had soccer-ball buttocks and a swollen, fraternity-pledge gut.
After a few months the purchases of food emptied my bank account. No more Keystone. The old grease from the fryer lost its charm. With the restless knee, I lost five, then ten pounds, reducing me to a mere one hundred seventy-five pounds. The vertical lines on either side of my abs reappeared.
Out of money, constantly hungry, I’d hang out at Arby’s hoping for the children and seniors who’d leave leftovers. I’d don a harlequin mask to disguise myself as I went through the bins. It was like I was in a perverse remake of the carnival scenes from The Devil Is a Woman, me a lost Cesar Romero, bedeviled by a beef sandwich just out of reach in the trash bin.
Dark, dark day: there was the hunger and the rain and the whipping of windshield blades. Driving my Focus past the Indianapolis coliseum, I heard a sign flapping against the marquee. I pulled the car over and lifted a pair of binoculars from the glove compartment. It was just a help-wanted sign for a dishwasher. Which didn’t seem inviting - except that I was qualified and desperate. Then I looked down and saw that it was dishwasher for the training table of the semi-professional football team: Hoggies. Maybe there’d be fringe benefits.
The Hoggies hired me. I noticed at the first staff meeting that no one was skinny, that all ranged from healthy like the janitor to the obesity of the head coach. This was all part of a strategy, said the coach, that by surrounding the players with healthy guts, the players would associate bigness with normalcy. So the players ate their huge portions, food served on two-foot platters family-style. The rivalries of who would eat the seventh steak with the pot of potatoes and a pitcher of gravy filled the air with the scent of testosterone. The far-sighted coach encouraged all staff to feed in the same manner.
As the dishwasher he wouldn’t permit me to let food go to waste. But new to this, the surplus food was too much, and he caught me dumping half-eaten potato skins. He didn’t reprimand me. Rather he wisely used the incident as an opportunity for learning, showing me how to lift plates from my mouth at a forty-five degree angle; and as I swept remains into my mouth with a spatula, continue to lift each plate up to a ninety-degree angle.
It was a science. Patting my slight gut, he mumbled, “Tryit me.” In my nervousness I shoved stuffing into his mouth too quickly and caused him to regurgitate some through his nose. “Ain’t firtime,” he smiled, patting me on the stomach again.
Unfortunately I could only initially ingest seven plates of leftovers. He attempted to motivate me through his far-sighted positive reinforcement, patting my gut, mumbling “Byend sea ya’ll downall leftvers…potental….candate prime plumpin.’ Daplayers seeyall gow feel comble gain’ fifty poun’ season. Thin’ nothin’ foot-ovhang. Laseason playkick thirthythee wai’ en’ inspiritu ballbell forthythix inch. Steadikick.” He patted me again on the stomach.
It seemed impossible then that by the end of the season I’d be downing the leftovers for a staff of seventy. The football players were already monsters. Even the quarterback had a paunch: six feet two inches and two hundred eighty-three pounds. The linemen ran four-twenty. Couldn’t see how they could use me as an example. (Little did I know!) When we brought the food in, they ran faster around the table, spearing steaks and chickens, than they did around the football field.
In fact, the Hoggies were revolutionizing football by doing away with the distinctions of offense and defense, lineman and quarterback. All Hoggies functioned as linemen, locking arms the width of the field, steamrolling the opposition. The way the offense worked is that one of the players would sneak the ball between jersey and paunch, and then the entire offense locked arms and steamrolled. Of course there were purists who objected, but the Hoggies always won, posting scores like 97 to 3. Who needs diagrams? Diagrams are more appropriate for valentines between badminton players than for the manly men the likes of the Hoggies.
At the end of the first chow-down the short assistant coach took me by the hand from the kitchen and introduced me to all. He wore a pince-nez, spoke with an East Anglian accent, and contributed expertise in rugby. He held my right arm up as if I had just won a boxing match. “Leave a little somethin’ for Runty.”
I learned that the previous dishwasher had been with the Hoggies three seasons, gaining one hundred and twenty pounds the first season, one hundred and five the second, and ninety the third. He lifted weights with the players. He’d lost about a third of the weight gain each off-season. Over his career he’d gone from one hundred and ninety pounds to four hundred and thirty-three pounds. They expected more from me.
A month passed. Initially I was a disappointment. Though my dishwashing made the family platters sparkle, I couldn’t get over a nine-plates-of-leftovers hump. My weight gain was negligible, one hundred and seventy-five to one hundred and eighty-four pounds. I blamed the restless knee. So to conclude their feasts they’d lay me on the training table, strap a funnel to my mouth, and pour down a keg of peanut-fudge-bologna shake, watching me bloat.
My breathing would become labored. “Oh, this is –glug - good – glug -, boyos,” I’d say. Stuffed, my belly rising like an inflating basketball, there’d be the streams of discrete farts. The keg would empty. I’d sit up, dizzy, clasp my hands behind my head, then arch my back, my gut billowing over my waistband. “Damn.” Nonetheless such gut-stretching never lasted through the morning. I’d wake up with the basketball gut reduced to a swollen frat-pledge gut. Even when I was sleeping my knee must have been bouncing.
On Thursday nights the coaching staff arranged special events, like Eat-Your-Way-Out–Of–The-Bathtub. Journeymen linemen could eat their way out of a tub of butterscotch mousse in forty minutes. I couldn’t even eat my way out of a half-tub of jello. And I was supposed to be their model.
The coaching staff invited Hoggy groupies to attend such events, butterballs who came packed in the Hoggy groupie outfit: hot pants and roller skates. Most had such big paunches that we had to use fireplace bellows as wedges to remove the M&M’s from their belly buttons. Each of their manboobs was at least the size of their heads.
We spent most of our time bumping into each other, or at least the time that we weren’t feeding each other those cream-filled chocolates that were the size of cantaloupes. The food indulgences were as workaday to us as push-ups are to other teams. Frankly, most of the linemen had stomachs so large that when they were prone their fingers couldn’t touch the ground. So instead of push-ups they snapped their digits to groove-line classics like “Get Up Offa That Thing.” But they could never got up offa their colons.
We imitated each other, donning bib overalls, and beards constructed of human hair from Mumbai. We sported the divided hennin: a dual-horned headdress topped by veils, as worn by Isabella of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy. We’d have those pleased-to-meet-you fart repartees.
It was at one of these Thursday night soirees that Big Manboobs Ditto bumped me, sending me flying. But then with these lads in roller skates it was unusual for there not to be two or three of the Hoggies flying. He bent over to lift me, his doll-like face appearing before his buttocks like the feathered stamen in an hibiscus. Seeing his thighs and hips, any regular homosexual would get stiff.
But I didn’t. After the run-in with the Amazon Creole, I was instead obsessed with whom I would become. “Who’s here?” I asked.
“Here,” he answered.
“Boobers,” I said, flustered.
“Boobers,” he answered. He had no trouble lifting me. (How soon that would change!) He led me to an overloaded table.
I grabbed a peach. “Why do you mock me?”
“Why do you mock me?” he replied.
Take one,” I said, handing him a peach.
“One,” he answered. As I opened my mouth to fill the silence, he stuffed my throat with a handful of chocolate ganache cake. As I tried to talk again, he again stuffed me. He put a finger to his lips. I opened my mouth. He kept feeding me, first the cake. He pushed me onto a chair, then forced down blueberries and cheesecake. I didn’t understand why he had so little to say, but the idea of being fattened turned me on.
Like so many other men he followed me home.
Instead of turning him away at the door, I pretended to accidentally forget to shut it. I hoped that he’d enter and feed me and further enable an attraction to a fatter self. Also, I found his absence of talk and the usual head-trips a relief. So while I crashed on the couch he took over the kitchen, slathering mayonnaise on melba, piling up turkey, stuffing me with canapé after canapé; then after the turkey disappeared, piling up the ham. Next came the grind of the blender. “Why don’t you say anything?” I asked.
“Anything,” he answered. It was as if I were talking to myself, as if he were not another person but rather an aspect of myself that enabled guilt-free pleasure, a conduit to happiness as a glutton-pig. But he was no dream. He was a three-hundred-twenty pound fleshpot. The floor groaned where he walked; the refrigerator light flashed on, casting curved shadows of him on the living-room wall. With the refrigerator door opening I heard that suction sound. He left a trail of narcissus cologne.
I massaged the ball of my stomach before another onslaught. “Who are you?”
“Who are you?” he answered, momentarily staring at me like a steer in headlights.
“I would rather die than you should have me.”
“Why can’t you talk normal?”
“You talk normal?” He pointed to his mouth. As I was stuffed, I wasn’t about to point to mine. Pinned to the couch by my gut, I closed my eyes, then fell into a deep sleep...
...I look up through streams of pond duckweed at cotton candy clouds, telling myself not to breathe in the water. Not yet. I’m too big to lift myself from beneath the surface of the pond, a six hundred-pound overturned human turtle, my shell four hundred pounds of fat. My life, like the clouds, drifts from me.
Then Big Manboobs Ditto wanders on shore between the duckweed and the clouds, calling my name. Before he had only been able to repeat words spoken by others. For the first time he is speaking on his own.
Did I want him? Did I still want to live? Would he notice if I screamed and reached for him?...
...Then I was idling a Ford Focus at a stoplight in Indianapolis. The light turned but I was dreaming within a dream, following a gilded aluminum ribbon through treetops. A car horn blasted. As I looked in the rearview mirror, a ’73 Buick Electra rear-ended me. The mirror revealed a menopausal Creole teetering in stilettos, midriff bulging between pleather. She dragged behind her a black and white sheet of plastic.
“Focus on your Focus, asshole.”
I thought I’d seen her before. Was she the woman who had given my brother and I an illustrated Grimm’s fairy tales? Of which I can only remember the cover: a child riding a swan. Or was she the model for an illustration of Hera in Bulfinch’s Mythology?
She blew up the sheet of plastic as if blowing up an air mattress. Only it was a blow-up penguin.
“Sorry don’t do it.” She kept blowing.
“Let’s get out of traffic.”
She waved her head negatively as she kept inflating the penguin. Car horns blasted. Even after the penguin was inflated, she kept blowing. The penguin became plump, its cheeks full, the eyes slits. And then its paunch grew. The penguin became wider than its height. She thumbed in the air-seal tab.
“Let’s exchange addresses,” I suggested.
“Chango,” she prayed. “May this penguin come to know the misery of loving only his image and of never being embraced.” Only she said it in a feudal Spanish, dropping consonants. Then, as if to consecrate this supplication, a nearby fire alarm wailed.
She turned the penguin towards me. But now it did not have the face of a penguin. I saw a grotesquely fattened face, which I now recognize as the face of who I would become. I rubbed my eyes to try to adjust them to the bright noon light. The Creole did not then do anything melodramatic like pop the penguin with a needle. Rather I looked at myself in the rearview mirror of the Ford Focus, reassured that I had not changed.
Then she and the penguin were gone. But I had changed. I no longer obsessively checked my own image, whether in the rearview mirror or the reflections of store windows. Rather I felt a longing for myself, or rather, who I would become. I did not imagine touching or being touched. I longed for a future fat self, a self as an inviolable, erotic object...
I woke. Bright sun slatted through Venetian blinds into my eyes. The cat clock with a waving pendulum tail indicated eleven.
Ditto was gone. But he left his story on the counter next to the fridge to explain himself.
He wrote that after 9/11 he enlisted from Milwaukee as an army private, then was assigned to the U.S. Embassy complex in the Green Zone of Baghdad. He was told that he would be accounting for inventory, but instead was assigned to supervise contract laborers at an experimental military-industrial complex financed by the Saudis.
He had monitored labor provided by defrauded contract workers from around the world, a system based on the Saudi contract-labor model, managed by traders known as pig-heads who also trafficked East European prostitutes. The Sri Lankans, for example, earned less than $300 monthly for twelve-hour days and only two days off monthly, piling the buffet plates of embassy and military personnel with roast beef, lobster, bacon, chicken wings, pecan pies and chocolate fudge shakes shipped in from Abu Dhabi.
Constantly overfed, largely motivated by their stomachs, the American Green Zone personnel were not inclined to challenge a set-up that might endanger their access to huge portions of rich food. The Saudis and their corporate toadies experimented with a second stage of fascist consumerism, in which we become enslaved by our stomachs, addicted to gluttony; and averse to any social changes that might threaten satisfying addictions to stomach-stuffing, our stomachs and colons constantly gnawing like insatiable giant-worm parasites.
Ditto oversaw the laborers by watching monitor screens of guards from Peru and Kenya, sales clerks from Fiji, food servers from Sri Lanka, carefully noting any prolonged contact of a laborer of one nationality with a laborer from another nationality, or of any prolonged contact of a foreign laborer with American personnel. If he caught such contact, he would report it, then watch as the contract managers handed the laborers notification that they were being docked half their $300 monthly pay on false disciplinary charges, like showing up late or having stained a uniform.
Hermione, wife of Ambassador Jack Legoponte, overheard Ditto chattering with three other privates at Binnie’s, the Green Zone Bar. Hermione falsely imagined that the four privates at Binnie’s were having affairs with her husband Jack, who was giving her no satisfaction, as he was gay and his life with her was a lie.
Her husband had been in charge of the Pacific Command during the 70’s and 80’s, then primarily responsible for U.S. proxies targeting enemies on the basis of geography during the Central American Civil Wars. The proxies mutilated and mass-murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians for living in geographic areas suspected of not supporting banana despots.
So Hermione made Ditto and the three other privates subjects for the second wave of experiments to create the ideal consumer. She lured them by describing the experiments as a program for weight-loss. But the program was instead designed to make then as fat and powerless and unquestioning as pigs in a feedlot. Promised a surefire way to lose a few pounds, the privates, including Ditto, agreed.
They were instructed by Nurse Bump to write down their favorite foods. They were promised that by the end of the 10-day program they would never want to consume these foods again. They were told that after being initially fed as much of these foods that they desired, an over-familiarity would cause them to reject the foods, like the cooks who work nine to five at Kentucky Fried Chicken come to hate fried chicken. Then nauseated by their favorite foods, they would shed pounds.
The main motive, however, for the experiments was that Hermione didn’t want the privates available to her husband, Jack Legoponte; and that any attempts to flirt would be met with his repugnance because of their fat. The reality was that Hermione’s jealousy was unfounded. Jack had never been attracted to slender privates, but was instead a clandestine chubby chaser. Now she was transforming men in whom Jack would have had no interest into giants he’d find irresistible.
By the end of the third month they wore grass skirts around waists that ranged from 56 to 74 inches. Their calves ballooned. They had more than doubled their avoirdupois. Ditto weighed two hundred and eighty three pounds; Fred was up to three hundred and four; and Don had attained three hundred and twelve.
John: Do you think this diet is ever going to work?
Don: Patience, John. The early bird catches two in the bush.
Fred: Then auf weider sehen, stuffed enchilada.
Forever insistent on having the last word, Ditto shouted: “John always bites the hand that lays the golden egg.” Then he triumphantly added: Tomorrow will be another yesterday.”
Ditto helped the others maintain their mobility by teaching them how to hula: and how to tell with waving hands the tale of how the wolf blew down the straw house of the biggest pig brother, and then how in eating the biggest pig the wolf became obese, and then how in devouring the wolf Miss Muffett became obese. Hermione’s husband, chubby chaser Jack Legoponte, became a regular visitor, spying through a peephole at the privates’ swaying hips.
In fact, Jack Legoponte became obsessed with Ditto and took videos, constantly zooming in on his feet. In his hermetic, entitled universe (He should have been tried by an international tribunal as the most venal American war criminal ever.), he posted his videos to Facebook. These included videos where through the miracle of post-production he showed himself gnawing on Ditto’s plump tootsies.
As his prostate weakened, he would wake up in the middle of the night. Then while Hermione slept, he’d go online to watch Ditto’s plump, dancing feet. Only one morning Hermione woke after a bombing by Al Mahdi’s Army, found her husband absent from their bed, then heard the computer humming and the light streaming from beneath the door to her husband’s office. At first she didn’t think much of it. Up early to work. She’d tell him he needed to have his prostate checked. He kept saying he’d call his physician.
Nonetheless, each day after her husband stepped across the courtyard to work at the State Department buildings, she’d check to see if he’d forgotten to delete his internet history. He usually never forgot to do that. But after one night of sirens blasting on three different occasions to duck and cover, he forgot to delete.
At first Hermione didn’t know what she was looking at. Ditto’s feet had been painted to look like twin chihuahua puppies. Hermione didn’t understand how chihuahua puppies could dance in such a delightful manner. She also didn’t understand why her husband would gnaw on their maws. Something wasn’t right.
In her vanity, Hermione gazed at a forlorn countenance beneath her pink hair extensions:
“Mirror, Mirror, secret treasure,
Where’s my hubby finding pleasure.”
The mirror answered:
“Though thou hast the most athletic teat,
Thy spouse licks Ditto’s doggie feet.”
“Why would anyone lick feet? Tell me. What? You’re lying. I’m returning you to the 97-cent channel.” Hermione tossed her hair extensions about. “I’ll teach you!” She smashed the mirror with the handle of her hair shears.
“So it’s Ditto. He always has to shout the final cliché. Now I will: Ditto must die!”
The vanity echoed with Hermione’s cry, “Ditto must die!”
Disappointed by an absence of applause, then that an echo upstaged her, Hermione yanked out the vanity drawers and stomped on their contents. “Take that -- and that.” She collapsed on the pile of cosmetics and medications. By coincidence an earthquake caused an orange candle to fall from the windowsill into her grasp.
“Que destino!” She lifted herself, again sat at her vanity. She wrote an inscription on a slip of paper, taped it to the bottom of the candle, then lit the candle. Using feudal Spanish, dropping consonants so that the Spanish sounded like French, Hermione repeated the following incantation:
“Perdera con que usted me engano, su lengua,
Menos que para el proposito de tener la ultima respuesta;
Recupera solamente si un elefante le violara.
[“You shall lose how you cheated me, your articulation,
Except for the purpose of having each final communication;
You will recover only if an elephant forces a sex violation.]
Hermione punished Ditto by taking away Ditto’s voice, except when repeating the words of others. Ditto would regain his voice only by being raped by an elephant.
So that’s how I found out about Ditto’s speaking limitations, reading the notes he left by the fridge. I assumed he’d never regain his voice because being raped by an elephant was impossible.
Ditto flirted with me at the Hoggies’ Training Center. It wasn’t in me to flirt with anyone. Ditto was so determined to have me that he re-wrote reality into his fantasy, imagining me as a naughty seducer. He started staying at my apartment on our weekends, which due to the football schedule was Monday-Tuesday. He seemed unusually concerned that I never be hungry. And with my stomach stretching I was often hungry. On our weekends I was nearly always eating.
After a month of this he began weekend “moments of truth,” where he stripped me, stood me on the scale, tape-measured my waist. He poked at me with the end of a walking cane and use pincers to measure my belly and butt fat. After a month I’d gained only five pounds, going from 184 to 189 pounds. Working out, my chest expanded two inches, my waist lost an inch, my buttocks gained three. My abdominal muscles became defined. To Coach and the Hoggies I was a failure. Ditto, however, continued to believe in me.
Usually at this point in these stories the narrator describes how the feeder-lover withholds sex until there are dramatic weight gains. Such positive reinforcement causes the feedee-gainer to eat himself to near-climaxes, and then super climaxes are triggered by blow jobs. For some reason the feeder is never similarly pleasured.
That isn’t how it was with us. Ditto initially was excited by the prospect of fattening me. While I wasn’t excited by Ditto, I was excited by the prospect of becoming fattened. We were made for each other. We had good sex. Blow and rim jobs were part of the daily mix, not special rewards. But my bouncing knee kept burning the calories. I still wasn’t gaining much.
So Ditto tied my legs together. When that didn’t work, he tied them to chairs. He weighed my knees down with sacks of gravel. Nothing worked. My knees kept bouncing.
Once it became apparent to Ditto that the fantasy of my becoming fat might not be realized, there were nights without sex, avoidance, mirthless jokes. There was falling asleep before obscure films, like Raymond Burr in the 1950 noir "Unmasked." Ditto became more interested in Burr than me. During sex I’d imagine being tied and stuffed by a transvestite Audrey Totter. It wasn’t working out.
On a Monday morning I woke with my wrists and ankles lashed to the posts of my bed. A transvestite Audrey Totter wasn’t there to stuff me. Rather Ditto sat next to the bed with a sledgehammer in his lap.
“I thought we were going to demo the vanity after the football season.”
Ditto didn’t respond.
“Do I smell a meatloaf?”
“Meatloaf.” Ditto lifted the sledgehammer to his chest.
“What’s in the blender?”
“ – blender.” He stood up.
“I can keep my knees from burning calories. I’ll do it for you.”
“I’ll do it for you.” He lifted the sledgehammer over his head.
I struggled at the bonds. “I don’t know what the police would call this.”
“Call this.” The hammer fell. It missed my knee and instead landed near my crotch.
“Maybe you should sleep on this.”
“—sleep on this.”
He again raised the hammer. He drove it down. His aim improved. He smashed my left kneecap.
Pain is pain.
He raised the hammer again.
“No.” He drove down the hammer.
I lost consciousness.
With my legs frozen in casts, and being stuffed both at work and at home, my belly bowed out in two weeks. The scale read 204 pounds. On account of the casts, I took to wearing a kilt. After two weeks I kept trying to convince myself that the 41-inch kilt still fit. Kilts measure not from around the waist but rather higher, from around the belly button, so actually I had a 38-inch waist and a three-inch pudge. But even this became tight. I’d suck in my gut and grunt until I got the kilt snapped. After each stuffing my belly would plump up so much that I’d still end up popping the snaps. So beneath shirts I no longer tucked in, I discreetly left the kilt unsnapped and gave up on belts. Nonetheless, the kilt seams by my thighs exposed threads.
By the end of the football season, I looked like the ex-wrestler who no longer has to make weight, the beer-delivery truck driver, the crew-cut high-school football coach. My stomach would bounce as I climbed stairs. The scale read 228 pounds.
Unaccustomed to my expanding girth, objects kept getting in my way. I’d push over signs at Macy’s. Once I had to pay for a smashed Lladro angel. It got to when I was shopping with Ditto I’d first focus on finding a place to sit.
During our off-season (June through December) I continued to be Ditto’s project. The casts had to be replaced once in early July because my thighs widened. By Labor Day, when the casts were removed for posterity, love handles were spilling over them. I had worried that once the casts came off, my knees would again start bouncing, and I would again lose weight.
But my knees didn’t bounce. I kept gaining. After the feeding season of Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s, I’d reached 294 pounds. At the beginning of winter training in January, the coach held up my paunch to the Hoggy linemen as a fine example of off-season training. It had become like a 50-pound sack of sand. Coach absent-mindedly bounced it as if it were a yo yo. He told me that if I gained another hundred pounds this season, he’d teach me the Hoggy handshake.
After stuffing on Hoggy leftovers at work, there’d be Ditto’s lavish spreads, then before bed the nighty-night snack. I’d sit up from the couch, my Ganesh belly riding high and tight in my lap. As I’d rise, my t-shirt would hike, exposing six inches of spare tire that bulged over my pajama waistband. Handles replaced my waist. I’d slide my hands under my gut, lift it, then let it bounce and jiggle as I waddled to the Little Debbie cakes in the fridge. My thighs rubbed, whispering, creating inside-thigh bald spots. I’d stuff down Debbies. As I turned, my belly would bump into the fridge door, slamming it. I’d down more packs of Debbies, a half-gallon of milk. My gut would stick straight out, forming a convenient ledge for the box of Debbies.
Midseason, the overalls with the 52-inch waist were getting tight. It got to where I’d sweat just trying to get them over my thighs, sucking in and squeezing together my butt cheeks. Once on I’d relax and then fill them out like a sail that’s caught the wind.
When dressing in a shirt to attend St. John’s Episcopal Church, I’d first suck in so that I could fasten the button by my belly button, then hold my breath while quickly fastening the other buttons. Then I’d relax and breathe, causing the buttons to tighten against the eyelets, the fabric to stretch, diamond-shaped gaps to form between the buttons, exposing belly hair. Thank God St. John’s was low church.
That year the Hoggies again won the championship. After the celebration dinner eight Hoggies dragged me from the kitchen and hoisted me onto the dining table. Coach announced to all that I weighed in that morning over 400 pounds. Hoggies attached a hose to the chocolate milk machine and insert the other end down my throat. I gagged. “Chug! Chug! Chug!” My heart raced.
Coach held my hand. “Breathe slowly.” The gagging turned to gulping, then as I relaxed to sucking. My belly rose. When the pressure became unbearable Coach unhooked the straps of my overalls. The shirt button at my widest circumference popped, and then the others, sounding like corn popping in the microwave. Coach pushed down on my stomach, releasing a long, deep belch, as if from a horned creature trapped inside me. Temporarily relieved, I continued sucking on the tube. “Belly! Belly! Belly” Pressure again mounted. I felt a throbbing pain in my lower colon.
Coach pulled out the hose. I gasped. I tried to sit up but couldn’t. Then Coach lifted me by my back. My massively plumped belly jutted from my torn shirt and over my thighs. Coach helped me from the table. The overalls fell around my ankles. I leaned back against the table edge and held up my gut as if it were a demolition ball. My belly showed a web of stretch marks like cracks in a bashed windshield. The linemen crowded around, whacking me on the back, thumping me with their bellies….
Another off-season. Another Thanksgiving with Ditto. I looked in the mirror and had difficulty identifying myself. While before I appeared like a sleek walrus, now the identifying features of my face were disappearing behind swelling flesh: eyes peering through slits; cheeks hiding ears. I’d gained chin wattles. Underarms sagged. My belly became more like a sack of potatoes that heaved up and down as I gasped. I’d edge sideways through doorways that kept getting narrower. Carrying 475 pounds, my legs wobbled. Nothing fit. My old clothes appeared to have been made for dolls.
More importantly, I felt different inside. I felt heavy. I became conscious of every motion. I also became more aware of changes in room temperature. I’d plot how to get from the kitchen to the bathroom with the least effort, so I wouldn’t be sweating. I didn’t want to go anywhere.
More dishes. More leftovers. By the end of the next Hoggies’ season, my stomach sagged down to my knees like an ottoman. My neck disappeared between sagging jowls and thickened shoulders. Bowling pin-shaped pecs flopped over my belly. I had to buy loafers because I could no longer tie shoes. I became winded performing simple chores such as laundry or dishes. Ditto drove because my gut wouldn’t let me steer. I was up to 623 pounds.
I’d get stuck in chairs. When I walked into a restaurant I’d immediately head for the tables without booths. Until I purchased a customized stainless steel toilet, the porcelain ones kept cracking and flooding like they were downed fire hydrants. No fun. I could no longer fit into a bathtub without having to call the fire department to pry me out. Though the firemen are gallant, that too gets old.
To get out of bed I’d roll prone onto the floor. If I fell supine I’d have to wait until someone came by who could help me.
Unfortunately the end of the Hoggies’ season also marked the return of the bouncing knees. I tried to hide it from Ditto. He caught them bouncing when he entered the bathroom without knocking. He held them down. When he released they began bouncing again.
The bouncing knees burned the calories. No matter how much I ate my body began a reversion from blob to beef-boy. I lost five pounds in a week. A month and I was down to 582 pounds. Ditto regarded me with false smiles. He avoided my eyes.
He tried weighing my knees down by chaining thirty-five pound frozen turkeys to them, but the added weight to the bouncing knees just ended pumping up the calf muscles. Some critters and I gnawed on the turkeys. Then the turkey thawed and went bad, those frisky critters abandoned me, and no amount of artfully-placed vanilla could cover up the stink.
Ditto felt betrayed. He would go to bed early to avoid the awkwardness of sex with someone he no longer trusted. We got in one of our arguments where he’d look away when I said anything, and then he stabbed with a pen on the kitchen table that the stinky turkey didn’t have anything to do with it.
I thought maybe if we fled these familiar surroundings we could forget the emotional pain that I now associated with the thick sweetness of Ditto’s cologne, the cat clock, or the doll Ditto put by the kitchen sink with an apron that has a big heart inscribed: “Housework makes me ugly!”
We tried starting over at an abandoned cabin that I remembered from childhood at Mirror Lake. Ditto drove the Focus, following twists and turns in dirt roads that came back to me as if recollected from dreams. There it was on the small lake in the moonlight: a cabin with an old armless doll on the porch, a sledge hammer next to the front screen door, and up the hill the hulk of a burned-out ’39 Buick. The cabin was tilted, appearing like it would slide down the shore into the lake. We unloaded the lasagnas and 40-gallon rocky road cylinders and cases of canned whipped cream and ale.
In the one-room cabin we immediately began a stuffing. My knees kept bouncing. We were a third of the way through the second lasagna when Ditto told me that he was so disgusted with my knees that he was leaving. He stole my keys and drove off.
I didn’t get up to watch him leave. I remained at the kitchen table and sprayed down a couple cans of whipping cream. Then I got up and with my foot shoved a case of ale to the door, down porch steps, to the end of the dock. I sat with my feet bouncing up and down from the water. I began pounding down the ale, one bottle after another. The bottles became a blur. Occasionally the dock creaked. With dawn the sky brightened.
In my boozy lucidity I knew the bouncing knee wasn’t why Ditto left. That was the cover. He could sense that something was wrong but he kept himself from analyzing it because that would interfere with his instinct of having sex. We were both lying to each other for the sake of orgasms.
I was not in love with him but rather with the idea of myself making love to him. My attraction was still with myself. And though he could subconsciously sense that, he was not willing to articulate it to himself. That would interfere with his instincts. So we bickered over a bouncing knee.
The reflection of my huge paunch kept expanding over the edge of the dock. In the reflection my head disappeared. My growing belly was a turn-on, and as I got drunker I downed the bottles faster. Planks bent beneath my weight. Occasionally I noticed an ominous moaning. I would have turned to see if it was Ditto, but I stopped myself from the exertion of twisting my head, rationalizing that if he wanted he could walk down the dock. Anyway I was too absorbed and turned-on watching to see with each downed liter if my belly button would touch its reflection.
There was a shrieking. Planks ripped. There was a scent like burning wood, then a roar as the dock collapsed. I didn’t cannonball into the water. Rather I plopped. Having so much insulation, the water seemed the temperature of urine. Duckweed rose past in slow motion.
Stunned, I initially failed to remember to try to swim. And then when I did I found that I might as well be wiggling my ears. A perch darted past. I reached back for support but my hands found nothing. Dirt clouds rose as my buttocks landed on the lake bottom. I involuntarily pissed.
I looked up through streams of the pond’s duckweed at cotton candy clouds, telling myself not to breathe in the water. Not yet. I was too big to lift myself from beneath the surface, a six hundred-pound overturned human turtle, my shell four hundred pounds of fat. My life, like the clouds, drifted from me.
Ditto wandered on shore between the duckweed and the clouds, calling my name. For the first time since Hermione cast her spell, Ditto was saying something without repeating someone else. He had the first word as well as the last.
Hermione’s threat had come to pass. Ditto must have been raped by an elephant. (I’ll later explain how that happened.)
Did I still want to live? Would he notice if I screamed and reached for him?
(Time for a Melville-ian digression on obese harpoons: Will getting fat make you have a bigger dick, and if so, will that contribute to greater pleasure for both partners? Yes and yes, even though when you become obese there is an illusion of the dick becoming smaller.
Dear readers, should we now follow the Greek myth where I am Narcissus; Ditto is Echo; Hermione is Hera; and Jack Legoponte is Zeus? If so, I breathe water and drown.
Or should I modernize the legend, realize the error of my ways, and scream and reach for Ditto? But in the sleek, modern version unfortunately it’s still too late. Ditto continues to wander above me, oblivious to my screams. I breathe water and drown: this is the fashionably downbeat cliché in which all the characters and the author hide in fear of emotion.
Or should I curse: “Fec, fec, fec. Fecund fecun’ myth, boyo. I ain’t no fecun’ god or demi-god and Ditto ain’t neither. We’re fecun’ human, more glorious fierce animals than noble ghosts, and want to throb and fec’ and watch our tummies grow.”
I decided I preferred the latter story alternative.)
I scream. I reach. “Hear me! Fecun’ hear me! I ain’t no myth. Lies and fecun’ ‘are better than dyin.’ We’ll tell lies and gorge and fec’, and wickedly josh’ and take intense pleasure in each other’s company. Don’t want nothin’ but that, Ditto. Please, save me from this fecun’ death and I promise I won’t ever tell the truth!”
“Narcissus!” he calls. He sees some bubbles popping at the surface near the end of what was the dock. “A turtle? What happened to the dock?
“Listen to me,” he continued. “Me! I hear my voice. I’ve broken Hermione’s spell.” He tangoed in a triangle pretending that he was dipped by a partner. “Gosh, where’s Narcissus?”
He noticed that the bubbles at the end of the dock were becoming fewer. “Narcissus? Pray tell?”
I was breathing in water.
Ditto waded into the pond, dived, spotted me, swam, locked a forearm beneath my bowling pin pecs. He pulled me from the water. He shoved the heels of his palms into my chest. Water gushed from my throat. He gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
I wrapped my arms around him. We kissed. He stripped off my clothes and then his own.
Boyo, did I have a hangover! Nonetheless we fec’d, him ridin’ my throbbin’ fifth appendage as if it were a sacred lingam from Kerala. When you’re healthy like us, you’re bangin’ and your bellies keep makin’ vacuum-sucking whuppin’. “Whop, whup, whop, shuck, whup, shuck, whoop, whup, whup, wop wop wop-op-op-op-op. Ahhhhhhh!”
“Is that it?”
Over and over.
He continued feeding me at the cabin. But again, my right knee bounced. He kept trying to hold it down but I wasn’t gaining and he again started sulking.
I’d learnt my lesson. I wasn’t going to let him steal my car keys again. So while he was visiting the outhouse I stripped, tied my legs to the legs of a chair, wrapped the rope several times about my chest and the chair, and tied the rope in a bow.
He entered. I pretended to try to struggle from the rope. “Free me from these tight bonds that are savagely biting my wrists.”
He looked at me, astonished.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to hit my knees with a sledgehammer.”
He began unwrapping the rope from my chest.
“If someone whacked my knees with the sledgehammer, I would not burn calories.” I nodded to the sledgehammer next to the sink. “Wouldn’t that be tragic, tied down here being stuffed for months and no way to burn calories? I might gain a pound or two.” I gazed mournfully at my paunch.
Ditto continued gaping.
“If I closed my eyes and fell asleep, I wouldn’t know what hit me.” I closed my eyes, feigned snoring, waited. “I talk in my sleep. Do you talk in your sleep?” Opening my left eye, I watched as Ditto drove the sledgehammer home.
Of course an elephant didn’t rape Ditto. When we were on the outs, after the bouncing knees returned and I wasn’t gaining weight, and Hermione’s spell had not yet been broken, he met an elephant walrus at Ocean World. It barked at him. He couldn’t help barking back. One night it followed his cologne back to his place and knocked on his door with its snout. It waddled in and slept next to him until morning. This happened three nights in a row. The third morning Ditto awoke, looking into the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen.
“When the pony dies, the ride is over,” declared Ditto. “Nobody is everyone. What goes around is live and learn.”
For the first time since Hermione cast her spell, Ditto had both the last words and the first words. Hermione’s spell was broken.
Her spell was also broken at the Legoponte manse in the Green Zone, Baghdad. Hermione and Jack Legoponte slept restlessly. Their dreams of Ditto’s Chihuahua pups were disturbed by the spirits of the hundreds of thousands of Salvadoran civilians that Jack had targeted for showy mutilations and slaughter. The spirits of the Salvadorans coalesced: their anguish breathed fire onto the high Louis heels of bedside platinum slippers.
Sirens wailed, warning of the Al Mahdi Army’s mortars. Jack and Hermione reflexively rose and stepped into their slippers. The platinum’s white-hot heat forced them to jive. They kicked and flicked until they fell down dead.
The heat caused them to disintegrate to ash. By dawn the sirocco spread them over the Western Desert.
After Ditto smashed my kneecaps I never did walk again. The weight loss reversed. We married. Between feedings by Ditto and the Hoggies, my weight climbed to 932 pounds. The Hoggies promoted me from dishwasher to mascot. They stuck me in the bed of a Dodge Rampage pick-up that they customized by cutting a hole in the bed to allow for discreet evacuation. I’ve become a fixture at the annual Hoggies’ Victory Parade. Fans showered me not with confetti but with balloons filled with tasty drippings.
Jack and Hermione’s second stage of corporate fascism has survived them and spread. We are increasingly averse to social changes that might threaten satisfying our stomachs. Each year the legions at the Hoggies’ Victory Parade have become fatter, more docile, less inclined to challenge corporate authority.
As Hoggies’ mascot I’ve become a model for the transformation of a nation.
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